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Munroe To Challenge Closed Court For Marines

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Wayne Munroe

By DANA SMITH

Tribune Staff Reporter

dsmith@tribunemedia.net

WAYNE Munroe, counsel for the marines accused of causing harm to Cuban detainees at the Detention Centre, said he will challenge the government’s decision to have a closed court with three independent observers.

Five Defence Force marines – one a petty officer, a leading seaman, two able seamen, and a marine seamen – were officially charged at the Defence Force Base in Coral Harbour on Monday, following an investigation into claims of abuse at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre.

The proceedings are not criminal, but disciplinary, their lawyer explained. But the “real issue”, Mr Munroe continued, is the government’s intention to permit three observers to attend the hearings.

This was announced by National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage last week Tuesday, when he also said the hearings “will be held in camera” and a “full report” of the proceedings will be issued at the conclusion.

“It’s either open or it’s closed,” Mr Munroe said, yesterday. “It has to be either open or closed. On what basis would these three people be empowered to sit in on a closed hearing?”

He added: “If they have a proposition about recording closed proceedings, about letting in third parties into closed proceedings over which we will object – that matter we will be taking to the Supreme Court and Judicial Review.”

When asked his preference between a closed or open proceeding, Mr Munroe said: “I think that the Defence Force marines should be treated just like the police officers are and there should be a board of inquiry – which is an open proceeding.

“If it’s closed, it’s closed. If it’s open, it’s open. There’s a choice that they can have a closed hearing or an open hearing. But you can’t have a cross between the two.”

The accused marines will be pleading their innocence, Mr Munroe confirmed, explaining the proceedings are in a way similar to that of a Magistrate’s court, but with different penalties.

“The penalties are disciplinary instead of criminal. But for somebody who has taken up a vocation of service, a disciplinary finding is as bad to them as a criminal finding – and in some cases, worse,” he said.

“There’s some penalties, for instance, there’s an offence of permitting somebody to escape. And if they were to do that, that’s two years imprisonment. So if they had sat down and said we’re not going to touch anybody, they’d be in prison for two years.”

Mr Munroe said he has requested certain documents to aid in his case of defence, including the criminal records of the detainees.

“At the end of the days, you don’t do this to your service men. You see the American government closed down and one of the only class of people who are still being paid are the service men. So we just don’t get it,” he said.

“They (the accused marines) feel like we just don’t get it. They trained with American marines. They trained with the English marines. They trained with their counterparts all over the world. In those countries, they get it. We don’t get it. We don’t get that when you tell somebody your job is to kill and to be killed, that requires a certain level of support of those persons and their families. Well, we just don’t get that.”

Mr Munroe added: “We represent all of them and if the government doesn’t wish to pay their legal fees, then I’m not going to cause these men to disrupt their financial circumstances to pay me, because I’m not about to leave them undefended... I regard all of the people who aren’t standing behind these men as cowards.”

The proceedings come after months of persistent protests – including a hunger-strike – by members of Miami-based, watchdog group, the Democracy Movement.

In leaked Defence Force documents, a young marine admitted that on the direction of superiors, he punched, kicked and beat unresisting Cuban detainees with a stick until they screamed, in what is described in official investigation documents as a “frenzied” attack at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre. He later denied his statement.

The beatings – to which an officer has confessed according to the leaked interrogation reports – did not occur during an escape attempt, but later, after the escapees had already been recaptured and restrained. Some detainees were only identified after guards searched through the male population looking for cut palms, which could have suggested a struggle with barbed wire.

The Tribune has formally applied to Royal Bahamas Defence Force to be allowed to cover the proceedings against marines accused of abusing Cuban detainees. There has been no response to the request from RBDF officials.

Comments

concernedcitizen 6 years, 6 months ago

How can you have a trail /hearing/investigation with no complainants ,this is a show and Mr Monrue is in on it ..

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JohnDoe 6 years, 6 months ago

I am so confused by this whole state of affairs. These Marines have been charged with offences that the government of the Bahamas, as far as I am aware, have not yet officially acknowledged at least to the Bahamian public. As a believer in the Rule of Law, I also believe that these marines should be the beneficiaries of the rebuttable presumption of innocent until proven guilty and transparent procedural and substantive due process. I do not know exactly what happened at the detention center, however, considering the manner in which the government has handled this issue to date I must agree with Mr. Munroe with respect to the closed hearing. If I were one of the marines, given the government's handling of this issue the possibility of being unfairly scapegoated would be a real concern for me. Three hand picked cronies would do little to ease that concern. This whole thing is very disturbing.

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concernedcitizen 6 years, 6 months ago

There are no hand picked cronies attending .IN any trail ,legal ,military etc the accused have the rigth to face their accusers ,that is impossible since they have been sent back to Cuba . This is a show and Monroe is playing a part ,they will be exonerated and some cronies will be paid to make recomendations about running the detention center .To mke it look good they make get a pinkie slap on the wrist ,,

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JohnDoe 6 years, 6 months ago

You may be right, I am not familiar with the rules of evidence in these disciplinary proceedings. I am hoping, however, that you are wrong because the last thing we need is the appearance of a kangaroo court where the outcome is pre-determined.

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John 6 years, 6 months ago

Wonder if they will hold any hearings for those marines responsible for sinking the boat of three Bahamian fishermen who called for assistance after their boat broke down. The men were then placed under arrest and a number of charges put on them. The charges were later dropped, but now the fishermen who were trying to make an honest living. They have no boat, no engine, all their fishing gear is under the ocean, and all the lobster, scale fish coolers and other items the Defence Force officers removed from the boat before causing it to sink have disappeared.

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